[trip style = sightseeing]
Editor's Note: This is the fifth post in a multi-part series on Morocco with a focus on beauty---something Moroccan women have been perfecting since the dawn of time. Lauren, our travel beauty expert, is always on the lookout for the best in beauty. This line of Morocco-based products is her newest obsession, to the point where she's seen a noticeable difference in her skin. For a look back at the rest of our Morocco series, see Savoring the Sahara, Casablanca, La Gazelle d'Or and Dar al Hossoun hotels in Taroudant.
A family trip to Morocco is what first inspired Kahina Giving Beauty's founder, Katharine L'Heureux, to create her gorgeous line of holistic, organic skin care. Named after a Berber queen and prophetess, Kahina is also a symbol of empowerment and a heroine for the Berber women. The line is infused with nourishing organic argan oil, used by the Berber women in their daily beauty rituals. In addition to Kahina's beautiful collection, the brand gives back: A percentage of profits are donated to support programs that improve the lives of the Berber women. Read on to discover more about organic argan oil---Morocco is the world's largest producer of the elixer---and Katharine's love for Morocco.
Lauren: Tell me more about your first trip to Morocco and how this inspired you to create Kahina Giving Beauty.
Katharine: My first trip to Morocco was in September of 2007 with my parents. We went with a tour company, Heritage Tours, on a ten-day excursion that took us from Casablanca to Meknes, Volubulis, Fez, the Sahara, Ourzazate and Marrakesh, where I first discovered argan oil in the souk. The Berbers are the indigenous people of North Africa, living throughout Morocco and practicing many traditional crafts, each specific to their region or village. While I came across many Berber women on the trip, it wasn’t until I decided to go back to Morocco to source ingredients for Kahina the following January that I encountered the Berber women extracting argan oil.
L: How were the Berber women using argan oil? How is it created and processed?
K: Most women in Morocco use argan as a massage oil in the hammam, and use the culinary version as a cooking oil, particularly in the argan region of Morocco. The nuts of the argan tree are cracked by hand by the Berber women by hammering them between two rocks, a practice that has been used for centuries. Inside the nut is a tiny little kernel, called the almond. At Kahina, we cold-press the kernel by machine to extract the oil and ensure the purest end-product. It takes one woman eight hours to crack the nuts for a single liter of oil and it requires approximately 26 kilos of fruit to get enough raw material for one liter of oil.
L: What's so amazing about this ingredient?
K: Argan oil is a multi-purpose wonder. It balances oily and dry skin, promotes healing, minimizes and prevents fine lines, restores elasticity, and visibly improves skin texture. Argan oil is extremely rich in Vitamin E---it contains four times the amount as olive oil---and the hard-to-get omega 9 and omega 6 essential fatty acids. The beauty of argan oil is that it's so easily absorbed into the skin, you never feel greasy. This is due to the high concentrations of squalene in the oil, which is present in our own skin. What I love most about it is the multitude of ways to use one single ingredient. I use it on my face, my body, my hair and my nails.
L: How did this ingredient inspire you to create a line of skin care?
K: I was looking for an organic skin care product that really worked and loved the results I experienced with argan oil. From there, I started slowly by importing argan oil first and sharing it with my friends. After hearing their rave reviews, I decided to take the next step to create the line I was looking for---simple, natural, organic, effective and beautifully designed. When I got to know the Berber women who extract the oil, I decided to highlight them throughout the core of the brand.
L: How often do go to Morocco?
K: I try to return two to three times a year, but it is getting more difficult as the demands of running the business become greater.
L: What's your go-to Moroccan dish?
K: My top meals are the simplest ones cooked in someone’s home---Moroccans are incredibly hospitable. I love a traditional chicken tagine prepared with olives and preserved lemons, yet my favorite meal is fresh grilled fish from the market with lots of Moroccan spices, followed by sweet mint tea.
[photos via Kahina]